Before reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I expected it to be simple and juvenile (after all, it’s YA, right?). I was pleasantly surprised.
Junior’s struggle to become independent and establish his own identity while also fitting in with both his tribe and his white friends at school is something everyone can empathize with. I have frequently found myself caught between my family’s belief system and what I personally believe is right. Although my choice to register as a Democrat while my parents are Republicans is vastly different (and less important) than Junior’s “part-time Indian” dilemma, I was able to connect the book to my own personal life experiences, and this is something that I always value while reading.
Alexie is unafraid to address very important issues. In addition to the detailing the struggles of Junior (addressing topics such as masturbation/sexuality, talking to girls, etc.), Alexie also addresses more political issues related to Native Americans, such as alcoholism, poverty on the reservation, racial discrimination, lack of opportunity and job availability, etc. The book is deceptively simple. It is a small book that addresses many important issues, and I can’t believe Alexie was able to do this and still make the book so enjoyable and appropriate for young readers.
Although the novel addresses very serious issues, it somehow manages to still be funny. Some of the situations in the novel are genuinely funny, while others are the kind of funny that makes you regret you ever laughed. It’s the kind of funny that makes you feel ashamed for laughing. The story is told from the perspective of Junior, who is a genuinely funny character, but some of the humor seems to be a way that Junior attempts to cope with his situation. In this sense, the humor makes the book much more serious.
As a future teacher, I would love to use this book in the classroom. It is fresh and unique, and I think that it addresses many topics that would be relevant to high school students. In high school, everyone struggles to figure out who they are and establish their own identity. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian provides an important perspective of this topic. It also addresses many other topics and situations that would benefit high school students (and all other readers in general).